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Nutcracker and mime

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At breakfast this morning, believe it or not, the topic of the “shadow Clara” in the Boston Ballet staging of the Nutcracker came up. This shadow Clara, as she is officially called, appears with a shadow Nutcracker and a shadow Mouse King in the mime scene at the beginning of Act II. When the Nutcracker Prince is miming for the Sugar Plum Fairy the story of the battle with the Mouse King and Clara (aka Marie), a small scene opens up at the back of the stage. Timed with the Nutcracker Prince’s miming, a backup Clara, Nutcracker and Mouse King fight it out all over again. They aren’t in shadow, but nobody is very bothered about that.

Our discussion was about whether this is traditionally done, either for Nutcracker or any other ballet. I said this was never in any Nutcracker I’d seen before. My wife said she’d seen it before – it didn’t come out whether in the Nutcracker or elsewhere. My daughter watched.

Some more background. I assumed the first time I saw it that the Boston Ballet did this to make difficult-to-understand mime more “clear.” It did indeed do this, but at a cost. My attention was pulled from the symbolic mime scene at the front, to the enacted scene at the rear, weakening the effect of the mime. At the same time, the synchronization of the scenes, and the problems in achieving synchronization became a problem. I was occupied with it even though I didn’t care about that aspect at all.

So, is this a traditionally accepted device? Should this be viewed in the same light as Odette’s appearance in Act III of Swan Lake? That scene isn’t necessary, either. Odette’s music is played at that point; we don’t have to see her flailing in a window to know Siegfried should be thinking about her (or is it Ken or Daniel)?

Are there other cases? Is this part of the slow death of mime or an attempt to keep it alive? Pandering? An admission the dancers aren’t good at mime? Acceptance of changes in modern audiences?

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I've never seen this, but I think there are so many different versions of "Nutcrackers" that it would be hard to scream "foul." I'd bet it's just one more "enhancement" -- is it pandering to audiences, or assuming audiences can't follow the mime?

I think the mime sequence for the Nutcracker Prince, ably performed by small boys for decades, is charming and one of the best children's parts. I'd vote to keep it -- I can see that the Shadow Creatures would be distracting. They also might not be visible in every part of the house. Write a letter :(

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I agree, this sounds more like a distraction than an enhancement. But then, I adore that particular piece of mime.

In the Joffrey's production, the Prince is backed up by the women of the corps --- the soon-to-be Flowers. And when I say "backed up", think of back-up singers in your favorite 60's singing ensemble. While standing in formation, the women march and salute like soldiers, dangle their fingers in front of their faces to convey mouse whiskers, throw their hands back in mock-horror ... it's great fun, and not really distracting in the way a full re-enactment might be.

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